Kenya’s High Court has fined three top government officials $2,000 each for defying court orders, including an order to release detained opposition leader Miguna Miguna. The sentencing reflects a months-long tug of war between the executive branch and the judiciary in the wake of last year’s contentious presidential election.
Kenyan Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, and the head of immigration Gordon Kihalangwa were again no-shows in court Thursday.
"Each of the first, second and third respondents are hereby penalized to pay a fine of 200,000 Kenyan shillings personally. The same sum will be deducted directly from their next month salary,” said Judge George Odunga, issuing the sentence.
On Wednesday, the judge held the three officials in contempt of court for defying an order to immediately release opposition leader Miguna Miguna, who had been detained at the airport since Monday and denied entry to Kenya.
“In this case, it is clear the respondents are the ones in charge of security in this country," he said. "They are in charge of executions of warrants of arrests. They have clearly shown they have no respect for the rule of law and will not comply with orders of this court. Even if the citizens were to arrest them, they would still be placed at the disposal of their juniors. I do not see how any of the juniors will execute the warrants against them.”
The Interior Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the sentencing when reached by VOA.
Kenyans woke up Thursday morning to learn that Miguna had been deported, for a second time, during the night, this time to Dubai. A human rights lawyer and assistant to Miguna told VOA’s Daybreak Africa that Miguna had been forcibly deported under sedation.
Lawyers in Nairobi wore yellow ribbons Thursday in protest.
“The legal fraternity and the whole country have become increasingly concerned with the state’s blatant disregard of lawful court orders as witnessed over the last couple of months. There can be no justification of disobedience of court orders by any party,” said Harriet Chigai, the vice president of the Law Society of Kenya, speaking alongside leaders of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission at a joint press conference Thursday.
Officials have defied several court orders this year relating to both the previous arrest and deportation of Miguna in February and a media blackout over the opposition’s swearing-in of Raila Odinga as the so-called “people's president” in January.
Miguna’s lawyer, Nelson Havi, says the government has set a dangerous precedent.
“The biggest beneficiary of the due process is the government, so when the government disobeys court orders they are setting a very bad precedent because in future nobody else will have any compulsion to obey a court order,” he said.
The matter is expected to return before the High Court on April 6.
Setting the date for the hearing, Judge Odunga said his order from earlier this week that the state produce Miguna in court is still valid.